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Expanding access across shipping and marine

Mar 24, 2019
7 min read
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Mohamed Morgan, general manager of Gecko, an industrial services provider speaks to Pipeline Magazine’s Nadia Saleem about the company’s activities in the marine, offshore and oil and gas sectors


Gecko Middle East, an industrial rope access and coating solutions specialist, provides services such as mechanical works, Non-Destructive-Testing (NDT), fabric maintenance, specialised coating and waterproofing solutions. These services are delivered on both rope access and ground level. Gecko recently joined a 5,000-man strong Abu Dhabi-based National Catering Company (NCC) to expand operations in Abu Dhabi’s oil and gas sectors.


What do you think of the benefits of the NCC partnership at the company level?

We are very proud of our success that had attracted such a heavy weight partner. Besides NCC’s prominent presence and strong relationships in Abu Dhabi’s oil and gas market and the rich experience of their management team, we found that their vision complements ours. With our ambitions to grow Gecko’s operations in the oil and gas, marine and off-shore sectors, it was clear that it is a perfect partnership. We are both excited and ready to take on the all new opportunities and bigger contracts that will result from this partnership. The oil and gas market is complex to penetrate unless you come with the right combination of services, experience and relationships, which we will definitely be able to achieve alongside NCC.


What is your outlook for business after the NCC partnership?

NCC has been a long-term FM and catering service provider of ADNOC with high ICV scores, which made it possible for us to go through with ADNOC pre-qualification process under the NCC umbrella. Once that milestone is completed, it will open up many mainstream oil and gas opportunities that we are looking forward to. In addition to ADNOC, we are keeping our eyes on the upstream sectors. The conditions have not been the best in the upstream sector, but with UAE’s objective to boost oil production, there will be a lot of investment and recovery taking place in the short term. 


Can you speak about how the company has evolved in terms of services?

Since inception in 2002, Gecko’s core business has been built around industrial rope access services for civil industries and infrastructures; later in 2010 the company shifted its business model with a focus on highly specialised rope access skills such as NDT and mechanical services for the oil and gas upstream sectors.

When the upstream sectors were struggling, Gecko found it essential to establish its presence in the marine sectors by targeting shipyards across the UAE. We captured business during dry-docking by offering our skilled IRATA-certified rope access technicians who can perform NDT and mechanical jobs as well as blasting and painting. Soon after we expanded our team by adding skilled ground level teams to supplement the rope access teams. As for sailing vessels, we offered them a riding squad for the full duration of their voyage.

We didn’t just stop there-we continued to add depth to our industrial services and strengthening our pool of highly specialised skills, to include a wide range of inspections, testing and blasting techniques; We even established an industrial coating and anti-corrosion operation to supplement our core business.


What is your value proposition for the oil and gas industry?

Our value proposition stands out when complexity arises. Complexity could be related to the structure vulnerability or risks involved for example when working on the tanks of a sailing LNG carrier. Or complexity could arise from the magnitude and degree of corrosion for example working on waterproofing the deck of a very old cruiser ship. Another example of complexity is usually presented when changing the name of a vessel in a 12 hours window. Wherever complex problems are present, Gecko offers tailored solution with often times very complex methods of delivery and that’s where we really add value. 


How do you work on staying ahead of competitors?

Unlike most of the competition, we are not generalists. We differentiate our services through our peoples’ hard non-transferrable skills, specific to a job and industry specific health and safety approach. For example, we start by solving access difficulties through a cost effective and efficient manner, then we perform highly detailed surveys using Close Visual Inspection (CVI), General Visual Inspection (GVI) and other NDT equipment; after which we produce detailed rectification reports as per industry code of practices and finally implement a comprehensive customised solution. All our people from bottom-up have extensive oil and gas experience, which allows us to understand our clients’ challenges and requirements better than others.


What have you been investing in?

Our investment strategy is to enable our value proposition which is delivering highly specialised and complex services. First, we worked on doubling the collective non-transferrable skills we hold such as TIG Welders, hydro-jetting technicians and rope access technicians with offshore extensive experience; then we invested in providing them with the appropriate tools and equipment (i.e. explosion-proof equipment for loaded LNG carriers). We shall continue to invest in our people and job specific equipment.


What are the strengths of the company that will help with maintaining and gaining new business?

Part of our proposition is that we give our clients tailor-made solutions that offer evident savings and improved efficiencies. Nano technology is something that is in demand now when it comes to coatings and corrosion protection. This is something we want operators to look at more often. Time and speed have become more important than anything else and we need to cope with that challenge. Customers have limited time and so face to face interaction has decreased more than ever. This means that we need to stand out and be spot on without losing that small window of opportunity. We establish strong case studies and evident results that speak for themselves without wasting much time. This makes our success rates higher when going after new or repeat business.


How do you ensure the safety of your rope access staff?  

We are an IRATA certified operator which means we are regulated and audited by IRATA on all our rope access activities. To retain our membership, we adhere their strict and comprehensive operational practices and guidelines. We also ensure we have our daily HSE briefing routine that is site and job specific which is documented every single day amongst many other measures. We are also ISO 14001 and 18001 certified. Additionally, we also follow the most stringent HSE standards relevant to the site we operate at.


What are your future service plans?

In addition to remaining true to our value proposition, the key to success in the current turbulent economic conditions lies in solid partnerships with financially strong and influential partners, which we already tackled through our partnership with NCC. But also focusing our efforts on improving our service offering through digitising parts of the delivery process; enabling our people to produce real-time multimedia reports wherever they are in the world and empowering our clients with information to aid them in making wiser decisions.


What is the impact of the industry trying to push down on cost? 

The oil and gas industry has been through this price cycle before but with different magnitudes. Yes, driving the price down is normal when the oil price is lower. In our business model, we can bring down our clients cost down by offering effective solutions that are usually overlooked. For example, by using wet abrasive blasting instead of hydro-blasting we offer our clients 30 per cent saving on the same scope of work with the same level of superior results necessary for the asset integrity.